What are your deal-breakers when it comes to fragrance?

I’m not keen on sugary, gourmand scents, and I’m not a fan of sweet, fruity scents generally. I tend to prefer woodier scents, and if I diverge, then things dominated by citrus, lavender, and greenery. I rarely have issues with longevity, so most fragrances last long enough for my needs.

— Christine
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Hi fragrances are ridiculously expensive, but I know I can wear them without setting off a cataplectic sneezing fit. Tom Ford. I thought I didn’t care for gourmands, but then I tried Lost Cherry and everyone loves it on me. At this point, I stick to his label only and if I need variation, I mix his fragrances together. Lost Cherry is very nice with Noir pour femme. Actually Noir goes with pretty much everything and for a really mysterious scent Black Orchid with Noir.

Has anyone sampled Rose Prick? Love to hear your thoughts.

Occasionally Sephora offers perfume samples or a sampler packet for a fer bucks. I’ve only notice Tom Ford in there once though. I don’t think Ulta carries his. Maybe Nordstrom could help out as they are very customer oriented. I also wonder if the product home page would send a sample.

Agreed. I have only been able to order two of the same fragrance. The light warm blue one. Love it and Oud Wood. I keep watching and hoping they realize what a great marketing tool it is. How can one buy a sccent they have never smelled?

I have bought something I never smelled twice. I looked up the fragrance on Fragrantica, so I thought I knew what I was buying. I liked both of them so I was lucky. They didn’t cost anywhere near Tom Ford prices though!

Fruit notes/accords esp peach & apple, vanilla, caramel, licorice, anise, cinnamon — absolutely love those in food (except licorice) but cannot stand them on people. Whatever bodily fluid of Satan that Davidoff Cool Water is made of, hate that too.

Thanks Renee. I’m very low on Lost Cherry and facing the expense of at least one bottle which is always a kick to the stomach when I spend. I so wish he had smaller sizes because I would snap one up knowing my chemistry generally works very well with his offerings.

lavender is my biggest dealbreaker. it makes me sneeze, for one thing. it also just doesn’t smell good on me, like at all. I have a similar issue with patchouli where it turns into a powdery potpourri mess on my skin, which is unfortunate cause I do like it on other people.

I also don’t love massively sweet foody gourmands all the time, especially in hot weather. I do like sweet gourmandy florals (Flowerbomb, La Vie Est Belle, Velvet Rose & Oud, etc) in the wintertime though!

I don’t like scents that smell sugary sweet or overly floral, I don’t like when roses are the strongest note, or scents that smell like baby powder. I hate anything that smells “dirty.” I have a strong hatred of Shalimar, which smells like dirty diapers when it dries down on my skin. Another dealbreaker is an over-the-top price. As far as perfumes I’m currently wearing, my newest favorite is Chanel No. 19 EDP.

Forgive my descriptions. I’m not well versed in fragrances, but I know what I like.

1) Rose or other intense, heavy florals. My husband is allergic to them.
2) Really short longevity
3) These scents: Musty or moldy hints, such as with bad versions of lavender and patcholi (I like both if they smell fresh). Licorice, fennel, absinthe, and cilantro scents. Cheap, sickly sweet artificial fruity or cotton candy scents (they make me nauseous). Heavy powder notes set off my allergies. Chemical scents (I once got a fragrance in a sub box that smelled like toilet bowl cleaner!).
4) True musk with its strong musty and fecal notes. I like a synthetic white musk, though.
5) Poorly balanced, including when some notes burn off, and leaving behind a poorly rounded scent
6) Too lightly scented, or too overwhelming.

Most florals are synthetics. I doubt he is actually allergic to them but instead is having a placebo reaction to the scent itself. Most perfumes are more synthetic rather than naturals and understanding how perfume works is to understand basic chemistry. For example, the scent of a violet cannot be reproduced using modern day distilling methods – it smells absolutely nothing like the real flower once processed and is instead a combination of many other smaller ingredients to make that one particular note. I only state this because I have a huge list of ‘natural’ allergies for which I carry an epipen for which also include lavender, mugwort, birch sap, etc…. and have only had an allergic reaction to one perfume out of the 400+ I’ve tried and that was by Serge Lutens. Many I didn’t care for, but I wasn’t ‘allergic’, I just hated the scent. Sorry for the long explanation, but many of us who have perfume as a hobby cringe when people say ‘allergic’. My allergist will also tell you people really aren’t allergic to the perfume, they really just hate it and state it’s an allergy as an excuse. Now, yes, I’m allergic to lavender essential oil, but most lavender scents in perfume are not really from the essential oil, so I’ve never had an allergic reaction. Plus if there really is lavender oil in the perfume it’s mostly likely 0.0001% of the total end product. Not enough to cause an allergic reaction.

As for ‘true musk’ IFRA has banned real musk from perfumes a long time ago as that ingredient came from an actual animal. Now certain cultures in Asia and Mongolia still use the musk gland in their medicinal tinctures, not much we can do about that, but it’s banned completely in modern day perfume. Not that long ago IFRA banned musk xylene and other nitromusks (synthetic musks) in the 80’s and 90’s and limited the use of musk ketone and Tonalide as a ‘musk’ synthetic. Chances are you haven’t smelled true musk in a perfume, and if you did IFRA would like to come chat with you on where you acquired that perfume. 😉

I heavily suggest perfume blogs like Now Smell This (https://nstperfume.com) and Bois de Jasmine (https://boisdejasmin.com) where many of these notes are explained in much greater detail and for the layperson.

This was very interesting to read. Thank you for posting it.
I just wanted to add a little comment. There are definitely people that are actually allergic to perfume smells. Not just covering up a dislike of them. My mother was highly allergic to a number of scents. Her allergy was not bad enough to cause her to carry epi-pen, but whenever she got near a perfume counter or a candle store, she couldn’t talk for an hour or two. It actually caused laryngitis. We (her children) thought it was hilarious. She wasn’t so happy about it!

Rachel, Thanks for all the detailed info! That was really nice of you to explain all that to me. I appreciate the blog recommendations. I’ll check them out. I’d love to learn more.

I am remembering musky scents my parents had from when I was a child in the 70s (I’m 50) that were awful. Some or all of those might have just been bad early synthetics?Depending on when the real thing was banned, of course.

My husband likes how flowers smell, but he’s allergic to real roses and many pollens (he gets headaches, runny nose and eyes, itchy throat), so it wouldn’t surprise me that he is having a placebo effect with the synthetic rose and heavy florals. Or it’s just sensory issues he’s misinterpreting.

Sorry for the long reply earlier and I know I come across slightly aggressive, so my bad for that. I’m on Basenotes.net as a member and reviewer and the question of allergies comes up VERY often. Considering I’m allergic to a lot of naturals myself (birch, pine, cedar, almost any tree pollen), I have to take mega antihistamines during pollen season. I’m currently also going through immunotherapy shots weekly to build up a tolerance to those items. My allergist did explain to me that the allergies to plants is usually the pollen and was is extracted from the plant to make the scent is usually the petals, the leaves, or the root and not the pollen, which is what I’m actually allergic too. For example I can touch pine furniture and wooden spoons for cooking, but I cannot touch the sap. Does that makes sense?

If you really want to delve into it (and be prepared to glaze over to the chemistry bits) check out The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin and Chandler Burr’s book. They explain how a perfumers actually combines several scents to create a singular note and will do so in a much better way than I can.

Also, sorry for the technical writing here but to explain what I mean about natural and allergies – the natural aroma of rose, for example, consists of three major components: 2-phenylethanol, geraniol and citronellol. Depending on the type of rose there are other molecules that make up the particular scent of any particular rose, but those three are the main major components. The role of a perfumer is part artist and part chemist. They need to combine various molecules to either mimic the scent of any particular rose or create an abstract or ideal flower. The reason Chanel No. 5 is such a stand out is this particular perfume made use of long-chain aliphatic aldehydes, which is not a scent we would recognize anywhere in nature, because it doesn’t exist in nature! Chanel’s No. 5 is the result of the combination of three aliphatic aldehydes, C10 (smells like orange rind), C11 (clean, leafy green aroma), and C12 (smells like lilac or violets). For the record, No. 5 was considered to use heavy aldehydes at a whopping 1%! That’s how much of a punch they contribute.

Aldehydes contain a carbon-oxygen double bond. They occur in natural products like cinnamon bark (cinnamaldehyde) and vanilla bean (vanillin), rose, citronella, and orange rind. The chemical formula for an aldehyde functional group is -CH=O, and the general formula for an aldehyde is R-CH=O. Not all aldehydes smell the same. Those with a lower molecular weight smell really bad often resembling the stench of rotting fruit. Higher molecular weight on the other hand smells pleasant. The scent of aldehyde can be soapy, metallic, waxy, starchy, green or most famously that lemony scent in your floor cleaner/polish. Chanel’s perfumes are well known for using fatty aldehydes such as Chanel No. 22.

I could talk about this all day. 🙂

Rachel, I can tell you are very passionate about fragrance. I’ve offended more than one person in my time with my directness, so I understand. I still appreciate the apology, and the information, though. I don’t mind the chemistry bits: My husband is an engineer, and he’s always talking chemistry to me. Your explanation was clear enough to follow.

Sorry to hear about your pollen allergies. I have an awful time with them, too. That makes sense about the more common allergen being pollen and not so much the extracted fragrance. I would not be surprised that my husband was actually having sensory issues with strong scents and calling it “allergic” as shorthand. He’s not the type to lie about an allergy if he just doesn’t like something, though, so he genuinely has some issue with these scents. It’s not precise terminology, so thanks for making the distinction for me.

I prefer sugary, gourmand scents. Musk as a base note tends to be a deal breaker for me in any fragrance as it makes me smell like I have BO, lol.

Try Cloud by Ariana Grande. I know it’s a ‘celebrity’ perfume, but it’s actually better than Baccarat Rouge 450, which costs well over $200.

I’m the opposite, I love sweet and fruity scents ha. Also spicy. I wish I could pull off woodier scents but I’d be obviously playacting someone much more mysterious and alluring than I am. No one would buy it lol. One of my all-time favorites is the Lavanila Vanilla Coconut perfume. Just dip me by the toe in that stuff.

I don’t like being able to smell a lot of alcohol beneath. I’m not a fan of heavy floral scents either, but Flowerbomb is an exception. My lil sample spray only has a drop left 🙁

I am not a fan of overly sweet or floral fragrances. I will make an exception for rose scents. I like vanilla, woody, or spicy scents. Basically things that are more unisex or masculine. I also would like it to last a while, as I only apply it in the mornings.

Living in hot humid SE Florida, I prefer more fruity, lighter florals. A little sweet is ok. It’s hard to wear stronger, heavier scents here.

Almost all perfumes have anywhere from 70-90% of what is called perfumer’s alcohol. It is meant to rapidly evaporate from the skin. One should not judge a perfume by the initial spray or the first few minutes while the top notes and alcohol are rapidly evaporating from the skin. In hot weather this will be quick, but in colder weather should take a while. I made the same mistake when I started to get into perfume.

BUT! I have a suggestion on an indie brand to try out: Sixteen92. They make a lot of their perfumes by mixing them with oil instead. They are more of an ambiance style or mood. For the Sixteen92 perfume oils they will not spray onto the skin, you have to apply them with a wand or dab them.

Cost does not equal quality. Cloud by Arianne Grande, which retails for $50 is just as good, if not better than the $450 BR450 by Kurkdjian.

I won’t buy a perfume just on name brand alone for the most part and will always always sample. I usually acquire samples of perfumes and give them a test run on a paper strip and then on my skin to see how well they perform on longevity, silage, and overall notes. Some perfumes really develop well over the course of a few hours and the best part is at the end of the day. Others I call the ‘spray spray, sniff sniff, gone’ perfumes where they smell great for 1 hour and disappear like ghosts such as Byredo and Jo Malone. Note – some Jo Malone, I like and some last well, but why would I spend money on a perfume that lasts 1 hour or needs to be ‘refreshed’ throughout the day’.

Other perfumes I know require a more mature and trained nose. I know that sounds snobbish and pretentious, but I hated certain perfumes in my 20’s that I love now in my 40’s such as Bois de Iles by Chanel or Vol de Nuit by Guerlain.

The older I get, the more I look towards the well established powerhouses and known perfumers such as Chanel, Guerlain, Malle, Hermes, and perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena, Christine Nagel, Olivia Giacobetti, Jacques Polge, and so on. They are classics and have lasted this long for a reason. I know I said I don’t always buy on name brand alone and have purchased many from indie houses like Sixteen92, British brands like Floris, and expensive niche like Ormonde Jayne and Arquisite.

Basically I have to love it enough to either save up for full bottle (or wait for duty-free next time) and often I will purchase perfumes I love from other owners (on Basenotes we have a for sale board, often the perfumes are lightly used and much cheaper to buy from another Basenoter than to purchase brand new). For example I didn’t love Apres L.Ondee for $160 but when someone was selling a 3/4th filled bottle for $75 I jumped on it. This is a major gripe many of us have in the perfume world, that companies won’t make smaller sized bottles for a lesser cost. I didn’t hesitate to purchase four little Hermessences bottles (choose 4 smaller bottles for $168) instead of one big bottle for $266. I could keep going on with this topic, but will stop here.

Strong “green” fragrances don’t smell right on me. Something about my body chemistry just makes them horrible. So “green” is a deal-breaker for me.
My only other absolute NO for fragrances are ones that are super trendy. You know them. Those scents that you find on every other woman you meet. When I smell a fragrance that often, I just lose interest in it.

Rose, patchouli, neroli, ylang-ylang, jasmine – I know I won’t like a fragrance if any of these notes are on the list.
I would also add tabacco, incense and leather, but with the mention that while I hate them for me, I like to smell them sometimes when I’m in stores; like a `nose` curiosity.
I don’t identify categories of fragrances as deal-breakers. For me it’s more important for a fragrance to have lasting power and personality.

Otherwise, I’m a big fan of gourmand scents (vanilla, caramel, pear, chocolate/cacao, bitter almond, liquorice); the more indulgent, the better, because on me fragrance always tends to smell less sweet than on others or straight from the bottle.
I love the freshness of grapefruit and bergamot. I don’t like too floral scents, but I enjoy notes like lily of the valley, freesia or pheony. I also enjoy a lot orange blossom, as the perfect combination of fresh and floral.

1.) Anything too cloying and sweet.
2.) Granny fragrances (disclaimer; I AM a real-life Glam-Ma!)
3.) Doesn’t last long enough while worn.
4.) Morphs into something I truly do not want to smell like!
5.) Doesn’t work well with my body chemistry at all.
6.) Too generic smelling. I don’t want to smell like everyone else.

Some fragrances last too little on me (Dolce & Gabbana’s L’Impératrice, I see you!) and I don’t like too floral scents nor too leathery. For the rest, I’m game!

I’m not a fan of anything with a chocolate note. I also don’t like when the fragrance does a complete 180. For example, one fragrance that I tried started off clean and aquatic but then on the dry down turned into a heavy gourmand. I also don’t like anything with a ton of sillage. I would rather be able to smell myself but I don’t want the whole world to smell me coming from 10 feet away.

My Scent deal breakers? Anything too chemical smelling , cloying or Patchouli which just doesn’t work with my chemistry.
Anything too sweet and syrupy.
I like clean white florals and citrus like Neroli in the Summer and something more androgynous and deeper warmer in the fall/ winter.

I pretty much only go for the sweet, fruity scents. DKNY Be Delicious (green apple) and Escada Sorbetto Rosso (straight up artificial watermelon) are my absolute favorites!

Almost everything floral is a complete no-go for me. For some reason I just loathe the smell of flowers! Lavender and rose are by far my least favorites, though.

Must last at least 4 hours and no patchouli, iris, orris, narcissus, jonquil, daffodil, cumin, fecal or heavily indolic.

I generally don’t like anything that has that soapy-smelling musk in it. I don’t like smelling like food and I don’t like smelling like most flowers. What most people call “masculine” fragrances appeal to me but most of them smell too much like lime and too much alike. I like simple fragrances, not mixed with too many elements. I have no problem at all with smelling like grass or a pine tree. Lately I’ve been into “watery” fragrances (I know water doesn’t really smell much like anything) but those “oceanic:” and “ozone” things are appealing to me.

I have found I lean towards the houses of Chanel and Guerlain. I love oriental and woody scents.

Some “adult” gourmands are nice, like TF Tobacco Vanille. I love the smokiness of that and it’s not one of the sickly fake vanilla scents. My husband loves scents like that.

The super popular Angel taught me that patchouli does not work for me at all. I don’t get that smokey sweetness I smell and love on others. It makes me smell like some stinky guy rubbed his rank armpit on me.

Greens kind of turn on me. They get real sharp so I tend to shy away from them. Sickly sweet don’t work either for me.

I have a super large collection with Chanel, Guerlain and some 80s classics. I love Coco and No 5 and have worn them for over 25 years. I have ventured into some classics on the Guerlain side and love blending them.

Weak silage and week longevity are big no nos. Perfume’s are expensive and a lot of the ingredients that made them last have been banned by the IFRA. I also have learned that sometimes we get olfactory fatigue and just because we don’t smell it doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell or last. I’ve found some perfumes where I can’t stand the top notes but the dry down is super divine.

I have learned a lot from fragrantica.com. It’s a good site with good reviews.

I can’t stand oud- ugh!. It’s a fungus ridden wood and it smells like something ill. If a fragrance has more than a drop of oud in it, I’m running the other way! Same with heavy birch tar leather notes. Ugh!

I’m the opposite – I love sweet scents. But pure sweet scents are SO hard to find. 99% have some sort of cloying flower added to them and/or they smell like a bathroom air freshener. Indult Tihota is the only one I wear right now.

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